Tag Archives: Brie Larson

TIFF: Unicorn Store

Full disclosure: I own a unicorn named Mindy. She’s magical. She’s a goddamned magical creature. She’s also inflatable but don’t you DARE call her a pool toy. You can, however, call her the centre of attention, which is exactly what she was when I threw a goddamned magical unicorn party earlier this summer. I sent unicorn invitations. I had unicorn party hats, a unicorn pinata, and unicorn names for all the guests. I even made a unicorn cake. No, that’s not true. I actually made TWO unicorn cakes because Sean smashed the first one about 30 seconds after I finished it. And when you throw a unicorn party, people bring you unicorn presents, which is why I own unicorn slippers and a unicorn tape dispenser named Stuart and briefly had unicorn-coloured hair. This either makes me uniquely qualified to review this film, or I should recuse myself for the glaring conflict of interest.

I’m not actually obsessed with unicorns, but you know who is? Kit. Kit (Brie Larson) has literally been obsessed with unicorns her whole entire life. And after painting yet another unicorn-as-self-portrait, she’s unceremoniously flunked out of art school and returns home to mope in her parents’ basement (Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford). In an effort to Not Be A Disappointment to them, she takes an uninspired job with a temp agency and just when it seems the world might be ready to beat the whimsy right out of her, the universe sends her a pop-up store that only sells unicorns, and only to her, run by a tinsel-afroed Samuel L. Jackson, of naturally. Turns out that owning a unicorn is something you have to earn, so Kit sets about getting her life unicorn-ready, and that’s going to take some major changes. But is unicorn ownership really the cure to what ails a directionless, fully grown woman who seems stuck in a perpetual unicorn phase? Isn’t there more to life than glitter and rainbows?

Samantha McIntyre’s script is winkingly funny. For some odd reason neither Sean nor I had gone into this expecting it to be funny, and yet the audience was in stitches. McIntyre has a very quirky style that endeared itself to me immediately. She creates sparks in the smallest little details. I also have to send a shout-out to costumer Mirren Gordon-Crozier who must have combed the known universe to find THE most fanciful pieces of clothing ever produced. Kit wears her personality on her body. Her shirt collection is all blue skies and rainbows. It reminded me of Kimmy Schmidt in that way, who is always seen in sunshine yellows and bright fuchsias. Their clothing is a reflection of who they are. That said, it might be Samuel L. Jackson’s suits that make the biggest and brightest wardrobe impression in this movie.

But the real rock star here is Brie Larson, who makes her directorial debut. She’s just finding her voice as a director so her style isn’t quite as quirky as the tone of the movie, but considering how much it shifts around, I think she handles it well, and I already can’t wait to see what other stories she’ll tell. She assembles a really great cast who are a lot of fun to watch. Cusack and Whitford are everyone’s embarrassing parents, and Mamoudou Athie as The Guy Who Will Build a Unicorn Stable Even Though He’s Not A Carpenter is a particular stand-out.

I really enjoyed Unicorn Store; it’s a sweet reminder that growing up doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on childhood dreams. Underneath the glitter there’s a message about conformity and how women are told to pull away from “girlish” things in order to fall into one of two male-approved categories: the drab, grim businesswoman, or the oversexualized dreamgirl. Anything seen as overtly feminine is assumed to be less serious, and even women themselves can internalize this notion. Not Kit. Brie Larson flexes her comedic chops by playing her as earnest but not naive. In a world where every man’s inner child is constantly catered to with movies about super heroes, robots, pirates, and zombies, this one, finally, is just for us.

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The Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls lived a turbulent childhood: her parents bustled her and her 3 siblings from town to town, evading bill collectors, never quite having enough money for both food and her father’s insatiable thirst. Poverty and addictions pock her youth, but for all their struggles, her mother would never leave her father, and the kids soon realized they’d need to fend for themselves, each disappearing to the big city as soon as it was feasible (a real challenge when someone is constantly drinking up all the money).

Walls went on to write a memoir detailing the hardships she lived through, and that tgc_d02_00156_00157_comp_r2.jpgbook became this movie, though something was lost getting from A to B. The book pulls no punches. Her parents are complex characters, and their children have conflicted feelings toward them. The movie’s a little more pat, the trajectory a little more Hollywood. Someone decided to apply some spit shine to this story, a story that’s naturally very dark and brooding now has themes of hope and redemption that maybe don’t belong.

I can’t say what exactly is wrong with the film except it’s just too easy. The grit is gone. Sure Jeannette’s father Rex is charming but he’s also kind of a monster. He’s a negligent parent who abuses his wife and kids and helps keep family molestation on the down low. And of course he wants deathbed forgiveness. Meanwhile his wife is a “free spirit” who chooses homelessness over independence from the man threatening her family’s well being. Neither parent is capable of putting their children’s needs first, or of meeting those needs even if they ever did. Which they don’t.

But The Glass Castle is worth a watch for the performances alone. As Jeannette, Brie Larson lives up to her previous Oscar win, but it’s Woody Harrelson as Rex who you’ll remember. He’s tortured and endearing and inspiring and hateful. Is this the film he’ll win his Oscar for? I wouldn’t be disappointed if he did. But shame on Hollywood for trying to put gloss and a positive spin on childhood poverty. These kids were failed not just by their parents but by the system. And now their brave story is being watered down to make it more palatable for film audiences. Shame.

The Gambler

Have you ever found yourself wondering: can Mark Wahlberg play a professor? Wonder no more: of course he can’t. Even if he’s got a blazer and a slightly overgrown haircut? Not even then, I’m afraid. The part where he’s a total degenerate gambler, that I believed. He has said that this was the hardest role of his career, and you’d better believe it. The fact that it’s a terrible stretch for him is evident all over this thing.

As a cereal-loving, self-loathing professor of literature and a crazed gambler who has the-gambler-4.pngliterally gambled his whole life away, Jim is in a tough spot. He has enormous debts and borrows from one low-life money lender to pay another – although he then pays neither, and loses that money at the casino too. His bottoming out is made even more embarrassing because his most promising student (Brie Larson) happens to witness it.

But the truth is, it’s exceedingly hard to care about this guy. Even if you cut him some slack in light of his compulsive disease, we also see that he’s not terribly good at his job, or at being a son, or at being a person. He’s a self-destructive guy who just stopped caring a long time ago and there are no redeeming qualities to be discovered, even if a young blonde somehow finds him alluring.

[Sidebar: young women always think they can save the bad guys they’re attracted to. They can’t. Give her 6 years and she’ll be throwing houseplants at his head while she furiously packs her bags, accusing him of stealing her youth.]

This film is watchable but it’s derivative and never justifies its own existence. The original is still king. This one flubbed the minute Wahlberg came on board and just flopped about like a balloon with a slow leak.

Kong: (Bored Out of My) Skull Island

There are so many interesting components to this film that I find it unnatural and surprising how much it still sucked.

Basically: John Goodman convinces some government types that there’s this mysterious, vaguely-skull shaped island and the USA needs to LOCK THAT SHIT DOWN, like, be the first to “conquer” it and claim it as their own. So he hires crack photographer Brie Larson (for some reason), and master tracker Tom Hiddleston (for some reason) to accompany MV5BYzU4Y2VjN2ItZDA4Yy00MTBkLWI0ZGMtODcwZWY5ZDJlYTg1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjEwNTM2Mzc@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1500,1000_AL_him and the army led by Sam Jackson to the island that everyone knows is a no good, horrible, very bad idea. You may have noticed that the only thing more useless on this trip than the photographer is the tracker, except the little surprise that John Goodman has been keeping under his hat is: fuck surveying the island, he’s there to bring down the GIANT FUCKING BEAST, Y’ALL! Daaaaamn.

Except fuck you, John Goodman. King Kong is the least of your worries if you’re playing tourist on Skull Island. There’s much MUCH worse. But even though there’s a bevy of monsters and a bunch of a-list actors, none of them are remotely interesting. So that’s too bad. The movie is over-cast, and I’m not sure that I’ve ever said that before. But it’s just too crowded with famous faces and not one of them has a damn thing to do. And if any of them got any ideas about doing some acting or even just reciting a line that wasn’t entirely forgettable\unnecessary, Samuel L. Jackson was there to be a vacuum of talent, where his overacting is wildly disproportionate to the entire tone of the movie, thus hogging 110% of our energy, attention, and frankly, consternation, sucking up literally any sparks that anyone else was throwing off.

The only thing that I even wanted to like was Kong himself, but the movie couldn’t keep his size straight and that made me dizzy with rage (as did Brie Larson’s amazing, never ending roll of film). Kong is supposed to be big, and he is, but how big? Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts hopes you never ask that question, because he certain hasn’t. The answer is that it varies greatly from scene to scene and if you’re the kind of person who’s okay with glaring errors of continuity that don’t even take you seriously as a human being who can appreciate the difference between a station wagon, a sky-scraper, and a mid-range mountain.

Kong: Skull Island has an A-movie budget but a B-movie feel.

 

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Edgar Wright, I think I love you.

And Edgar Wright loves movies. It’s clear from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World that Wright pours love into his film by loading it with details that’ll take you several watches to truly absorb.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a young dude in a band. He’s dating a high school student 9d0uzolbut is ready to drop her the moment he meets his dream girl, Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). The catch? Catches? Well, his ex-girlfriend is in town, giving him a serious drought of self-confidence, and Ramona actually has 7 exes, er, 7 evil exes, whom Scott must fight in order to “win” her favour. The movie kind of asks: what would happen if a random guy suddenly had the ability to fight as if he were in a video game? And you know what? The results are pretty fantastic.

Edgar Wright soaks this movie in video game references. He got permission to use the 500fulltheme song from The Legend of Zelda by writing a flowery letter to Nintendo, calling it “the nursery rhyme of this generation.” The more you know video games, the more you’ll appreciate this, but even I can concede its greatness.

Moreover, Wright has a knack for casting that you can’t help but admire. He picked a whole bunch of young kids who would launch into stardom. Brie Larson went on to win an Oscar just a few years later, and Anna Kendrick a nomination.

Of course, my favourite part of the movie is how carefully Wright, an Englishman, preserves the Toronto locale. Toronto is a cheap place to make movies so it often stands in for other places, notably New York City. For once, Toronto gets to be Toronto, giphyunapologetically Toronto, with the TTC, Honest Ed’s, Casa Loma, and even dirty, dirty Pizza Pizza. This movie feels like home. In a meta moment, a fake New York City backdrop is literally ripped open to reveal the glorious Toronto skyline. When Scott Pilgrim earns points, the coins that rain down upon him are loonies and twonies, Canadian style.

And Wright, who is an excellent curator of music, finds some excellent Canadian bands to do the heavy lifting for him. Broken Social Scene wrote two of the 4-second songs played by Crash and the Boys (“We hate you, please die” and “Im so sad, so very, very sad”). Metric wrote the song performed by The Clash at Demonhead. And Chris Murphy vocalist and bassist for Sloan, served as the music performance supervisor, which I think means he made sure the actors held their guitars the right way and stuff. (Non-Canadian Beck wrote the music for Pilgrim’s band, Sex Bob-Omb).

Scott Pilgrim vs The World is ultra-stylized and brilliant to watch. It’s incredibly fast-paced and feels hyper real. It’s almost unbearably quotable, fresh, and inventive. The script can’t always keep up with the film’s flash and charm but darn if it doesn’t try. I’ve been in love with this movie for 7 years or so, and a recent re-watch confirmed that I’m still crushing hard.

 

What movies do you love to re-watch?

 

Free Fire

Free Fire is basically a movie about an HR issue. Justine and Ord are two “point guys” in an arms deal. She’s bringing Chris (Cillian Murphy), an IRA guy who needs some M-16s to the table, along with his rag-tag crew, and he’s bringing Vernon (Sharlto Copley), the money-obsessed guy with a van full of guns (although, notably, NOT M-16s) and his own motley crew. From the minute these two rival gangs meet, the two sides are twitchy. All they have free-fire1to do is exchange the briefcase full of cash for the crates full of guns, and the deal is done. But they just rub each other the wrong way. Everyone’s got an unchecked ego, everyone wants to be the boss, and nobody’s going to make this easy. If arms dealers had HR ladies stashed away in some ficus-strewn office, all of this could have been resolved with a stress ball and some trust exercises. But arms dealers tend to offer very few benefits as employers, so instead it goes to hell.

It goes gloriously to hell. It turns out that the driver of the first gang had an issue with the driver of the other gang the night before, and seeing each other turns a bad situation worse. Suddenly everyone’s whipping out their little pistols and bullets are flying. How many bullets? About 7000 rounds, said director Ben Wheatley. That’s a LOT of bullets. So the whole of the movie takes place in this abandoned warehouse where this arms deal has been all but forgotten, everyone shooting at each other, everyone forgetting which side they’re supposed to be on, the sides in fact disintegrating as it quickly becomes every man for himself.

I knew going in that Free Fire is a 70s shoot-em-up genre film, but I had failed to fathom how funny it is. Sharlto Copley is an absolute scene-stealer, his over-the-top character MV5BZjk1NjRiNzctZWFiOS00MGJkLWE0YWEtYTI5ODBmYzQwNjg4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_really embodies the pure fun and wackiness of this film. It’s madcap madness and I totally loved every minute of it. I didn’t know I could have so much fun at a Ben Wheatley film. A terrific script by Wheatley and Amy Jump is quotable, the cheeky dialogue rolling off the tongues of a delightful ensemble cast. The frenetic, non-stop energy sometimes makes it difficult to keep track of who is shooting who, and where, but once you realize that even the principal players are confused, it really takes the pressure off. The anarchy is entertaining and you can tell it was as gleefully acted and directed as it is consumed. No true hero ever distinguishes him or herself , which doesn’t mean you won’t find your own favourite to root for, only that’ it’s an even playing field where anything is possible.

Free Fire was meticulously choreographed by Wheatley but still required logistic heroics of cinematographer Laurie Rose and precision editing by Wheatley and Jump. The movie charmed me with its audacious humour but it also pulls off an hour-long assault that sounds one-note on paper but honestly, I could have had more. I love the recklessness, the wickedness, the irreverence; I was greedy for it the whole way through and Ben Wheatley served it up as only he could.

Check out the comments section for a Q&A with Wheatley and some of the cast!

TIFF 2016

EXCLUSIVE: Chris Pratt is swarmed by fans and autograph seekers as he arrives in Toronto

The Toronto International Film Festival kicked of last night, September 8, with the premiere of Magnificent 7. The party started the minute Chris Pratt stepped off the plane and strutted through Pearson airport. He manages to look pretty happy about being swarmed though, doesn’t he?

Actually, technically the party started the night before, at the traditional benefit gala. This year Michael Fassbender was the guest of honour, where he confessed that his super power was his ability to nap anywhere, anytime, and that his biggest challenge was learning lines (a real obstacle to taking on the Steve Jobs role, a wordy Aaron Sorkin script). Fassbender has a somewhat limp movie in theatres right now, The Light Between Oceans, but he’s also got one screening at TIFF: Trespass Against Us, where he plays Brendan Gleeson’s son who is trying to escape his crime family’s fate. Fassbender’s no stranger to TIFF, having been 2016 Toronto International Film Festival - TIFF Soiree With Special Guest Michael Fassbenderpart of the 2013 People’s Choice winner, 12 Years a Slave. In fact, he mentioned that when he and director Steve McQueen first met, McQueen hated him, and called him arrogant. Was it nerves? Fassbender’s not sure, but the two went on to collaborate very successfully three times.

Michael Fassbender wasn’t the only star on hand Wednesday night: Canadian stars Pamela Anderson and Martin Short were part of the pre-show at the AMBI gala. Short was dressed in his Jiminy Glick and interviewed the Baywatch babe (who was actually looking pretty good in a stunning gown) and elicited her 2016 Toronto International Film Festival - AMBI Galatop-secret beauty regime – “donuts and sex.” Honourary co-chair James Franco and his creepy little mustache were in the audience, and weirder still, so were Mike Tyson and Billy Baldwin, among others. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, Earth, Wind & Fire performed.

Thursday night was all about Magnificent 7. It’s a remake of the 1960 classic with an obvious twist: Antoine Fuqua deliberately chose a diverse cast, and then just as deliberately chose not to have race mentioned much in the movie. He cast friend and frequent collaborator Denzel Washington in the lead role; Denzel, having earned an Oscar under Fuqua’s direction in Training Day, jumped at the chance to work with him again. Fuqua, meanwhile, maintains “I just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse!” Don’t we all.

Magnificent Seven is meaner and edgier than its predecessors, and funnier too. Chris Pratt, as you can imagine, has a lot to do with that. He even had reporters in stitches in the press conference, declaring that the whole ‘remake’ question was moot: “Eventually you just run out of namesmagnificent-sevenjpg-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x724. If I have a son named Chad, is he a remake of somebody else named Chad? No! And I’m not going to give him another name like Schnarkle. This [The Magnificent Seven] has reach. It gets people engaged. But it’s probably a lot more The Wild Bunch than it is The Magnificent Seven. We used the title. We used the story. There are seven guys and we’re all fucking magnificent. But let that movie [the 1960 version] be that movie. This is a different movie.” For now we have to take his word for it, but Magnificent 7 will be out in theatres September 23rd, and you can judge for yourself. Last night, significantly more than just the 7 magnificent bastards walked the red carpet, including Peter Sarsgaard, who was easily mistaken for a homeless person. Both Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke struck a lot of goofy poses as they were quickly ushered along the press line (they were running 30 minutes late!) but it was Denzel Washington who created the biggest crush, and he still had a smile for everyone.

Late, late on Thursday night, there was another premiere at the kickoff of TIFF’s Midnight Madness programming. The midnight movies are not always horror, but they’re scary or violent or grotesque. Last year Matt saw Hardcore Henry at Midnight Madness; this year he’ll be taking in Headshot. Some of the Midnight screenings are surprisingly commercial, with the new Blair Witch set to make its debut, and Emile Hirsch bringing his new film, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, and last night’s screening bringing out some big stars indeed: Brie Larson and Armie Hammer for the new Ben Wheatley movie, Free Fire, a genre homage to vintage action movies.

Check out the comments section for more photos, and be sure to be following along on Twitter where we’ll be posting all the action, as it happens: @AssholeMovies